Sally Abou Melhem <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Office of Communications
Last August, President of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) James Hayter announced Jala Makhzoumi, adjunct professor of landscape architecture at AUB, as the 2021 Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award laureate. In addition to being a prominent Iraqi landscape architect and academic, Dr. Makhzoumi is a leading figure in landscape architecture in the Middle East.
What is so special about Dr. Jala Makhzoumi “is not just that she is such a pioneering figure in the establishment of the profession of landscape architecture in the Middle East but that she asks what landscape means in the Middle East context," said Gareth Doherty, director of the IFLA SGJ Award. “It is amazing how many people around the world have been inspired and touched by the work of Jala Makhzoumi, myself included."
Inaugurated by IFLA in 2005, the Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe (SGJ) Award celebrates a living landscape architect whose “achievements and contributions have had a unique and lasting impact on the welfare of society and the environment and on the promotion of the profession of landscape architecture." It is the highest honour IFLA can bestow on a landscape architect. The award is named after notable British landscape architect Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, a founding president of IFLA, whose most well-known works included Cheddar Gorge and the Kennedy Memorial at Runnymede in the UK.
“To be selected for the 2021 IFLA Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award is not only the highest honor at the personal level, but also because it showcases the amazing potential of landscape architecture, a new profession in the Middle East," Dr. Makhzoumi said. “I am especially happy that the award brings a glimmer of hope to academics and professionals in Iraq, the country of my birth, and Lebanon, my adopted home, during the darkest of times."
Dr. Makhzoumi described how she developed her career: “I was determined early on in my career to hold-on equally to practice, research and teaching. In a region where the word 'landscape' is narrowly construed to imply scenery, landscape architecture, still an emerging profession, holding on to all three was a necessity to progress the profession." She added, “In regions where the urgent need for economic and social betterment supersedes concern for environmental health, landscape architecture has the potential to address concerns for human and environmental well-being equally at the local, city, and regional scale."
She then shared a brief statement on her understanding of practicing, teaching, and publishing her ideas, having done all three. “Teaching is investment in the future generation of designers. Practice is my way of learning, of fulfilling my creativity as a designer. Research is sharing experiences and the challenges encountered as a professional."
Her work at AUB
Dr. Makhzoumi joined AUB as the program coordinator to the BS in Landscape Design and Ecosystem Management program for the period fall 2001—spring 2007. Also, within the Advancing Research Enabling Communities center (AREC), Dr. Makhzoumi worked on the “AREC Rural Technology Park: Climate Change and Sustainable Livelihoods in Lebanon" project, which expands the role of AREC from a previous focus on agriculture to embrace rural landscapes and livelihoods.
Dr. Makhzoumi also applied her landscape research abilities and technical expertise to service the unique AUB campus landscape. She pursued research and documentation of the campus landscape history, promoted community awareness of the campus environment and landscape, and volunteered providing consultation on campus landscape planning and development. She collaborated with the Facilities Planning and Design Unit (FPDU) as well as the AUB Neighborhood Initiative, and several other AUB centers and initiatives.
“When I joined AUB in 2001, I never tired of the beauty of the campus landscape. Was the campus planned, if so, by whom? Did it evolve as landscapes do? There were no answers. It took me years to go throughout archives, listen to stories, and survey the landscape with students to uncover the historical layers and reconstruct AUB's campus history. The more I learnt, the greater my admiration for generations of impassioned faculty, students, researchers, administrators and workers that loved and cared for this unique natural and cultural heritage."
More on her career
She received her bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of Baghdad, her master's degree in environmental design at Yale University, and her PhD in landscape architecture at Sheffield University.
Her expertise is in ecological landscape design and planning where she applies a holistic, developmental approach to mediate community needs with ecosystem health, biodiversity protection and landscape heritage conservation. Her professional and academic expertise includes postwar recovery, energy efficient site planning, and sustainable urban greening.
She served as landscape planning consultant to the Damascus master plan 2030, Saida Urban Sustainable Development Strategy 2015, Baghdad Comprehensive City Development Plan 2030 and the conservation and revitalization of the historic holy towns of Kadhimia and Najaf.
In 2013 Dr. Makhzoumi co-established UNIT44, a Lebanon-based design and planning practice offering a wide range of services in architecture, landscape architecture, ecological planning and urban design.
She has many research publications and books in the field of landscape. Dr. Makhzoumi is also an activist who provides alternative visions and protects sensitive sites and communities threatened by real estate development in a region where rapid urbanization is drastically shaping the local environment.
She was the recipient of the first Tamayouz Women in Architecture and Construction Award in 2013, as well as the European Community for Landscape Architecture Schools (ECLAS) lifetime achievements award in 2019.